News of Otsego County

Richard Butcher

In COVID Era, Halloween Thrives


Halloween Thrives

Richard Butcher, left, and the Bernard-Wood brothers, Colt and Alexander, pose with their spooky Cooperstown display. (Jim Kevlin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Oneonta siblings Aubrey Morgan, left, Bella Barnes and Matthew Alley show off the enormous Halloween dragon at their River Street home. (Ian Austin/

COOPERSTOWN – Richard Butcher, Cooperstown, ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

“Our house was built in the 1840s,” he said. “It’s definitely haunted.”

Haunted or not, you can see a ring of spooky spirits day or night in front of his house at, yes, 71 Elm St. “At night, the center glows, like they’re doing a ritual,” he said. “It’s really creepy!”

With Cooperstown and Oneonta’s Halloween parades cancelled and trick-or-treating minimized, homeowners are taking more pride and care with their lawn decorations, creating elaborate scenes of ghouls and goblins to get passersby in the spirit of the season.

“COVID-19 really did a number on people,” said Butcher. “If people look at this, it might make them happy. My mom used to always decorate, so we wanted to keep the tradition going with our family.”

“Decorations are for everyone,” said Dan Alley, River Street, Oneonta. “Since there isn’t much going on for Halloween, we’re getting it all out now.”

Alley, a city firefighter, started decorating when his son, Matthew, was little, and has continued with his daughters, Bella Barnes and Aubrey Morgan. “It evolves every year,” he said. “The kids love it. We used to set it up while they were at school, and they’d run home to see what new piece we added.”

The family still has the first decoration it ever bought, a Mickey Mouse pumpkin. “This year the kids are home, so they were able to help set it up,” he said.

Most of the Alleys’ decorations are inflatable, but dad said they’re going to start moving towards solid decorations next year.

“We tried to get the 12-foot skeleton from Home Depot,” he said. “We had friends looking for it in Texas and Florida. But one way or another, we’re going to have a giant skeleton next year.”

They do, however, have a motion-activated skeleton dangling from the mailbox, which the kids put there to spook any postal workers who bring a package by.

Butcher, a tattoo artist, couldn’t even wait until October to start building his display. “You don’t know if it’s going to snow in October,” he said. “I came up with these cool ideas, so I just put it together in one day.”

The scarecrows, for instance, originally had smiles, but he wanted to give it a Halloween touch. “At first, I thought happy scarecrows were fine,” he said. “But then I thought no, let’s put masks on them, let’s make them creepy.”

And, of course, no tour of Halloween decor is complete without a stop by Jeff VanWinkler’s home on Grove Street in Milford, complete with an enormous spider web and a crew of masked skeletons out front, in homage to the essential workers.

“Halloween is fun!” said Alley. “We always make costumes for the kids and they always win the group costume contest at the Boys & Girls Club.”

Though they won’t be doing any costume contests, the kids are still planning to dress up and do some trick-or-treating. “The girls are dressing up as Barbies,” he said.

And this won’t be the last time you see Butcher’s house lit up. “I can’t wait until Christmas,” he said. “I’m thinking about making the whole front yard into an ice rink with Charlie Brown skating on it.”

Look for Christmas lights at the Alleys’ place too. “We’re going to be putting up a huge tree,” he said. “We want people to be able to see it from the highway!”

Posts navigation

21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103